In what could prove to be a positive for Milwaukee, they won’t have to wait long to get a shot at redeeming themselves for last nights horrible second half against Toronto. After going in to the halftime break only down by 2 points, the Bucks were simply uncompetitive in the second half, with the deficit blowing out to 29 points before they finished up 110-129 losers.
The Bucks were yet again abused by an opposition big man, as Jonas Valanciunas finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. After being removed in the first two minutes of the game with foul trouble and going scoreless in the first half, Valanciunas sure made up for it in the third. An absolutely ridiculous quarter of 20 points and 9 rebounds completely destroyed the Bucks chances of victory as John Henson and Thon Maker were again made to look like boys amongst men.
The defense was insipid once again overall as the Raptors knocked down 55% of their field goals and piled on 68 points in the second half. In a night with very little positives, at least Giannis and the other starters got plenty of rest ahead of what looms as another extremely difficult matchup.
Winners in six of their last seven games, the Washington Wizards are finding their groove. Also playing last night, the Wizards almost put the cue in the rack too early, eventually holding on for a 102-100 victory in Memphis. It was a likely duo that fuelled the win with backcourt buddies John Wall and Bradley Beal combining for 59 points and 8 three pointers.
Wall and forward Markieff Morris have missed multiple games in the seasons opening months, and the Wizards are finally starting to feel some continuity with good results. Morris in particular had one of his better games of the season last night in grabbing 17 rebounds to go with 12 points.
Possessing a top ten defense, Washington clamped down on the Bucks in their first meeting of the season. That night Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton in particular found the going tough, the pair combining to go 13-34 from the field. To give an indication of how severe Milwaukee’s offensive troubles were that night, they only finished with four made three pointers and two of them came from DeAndre Liggins. That’s not good.
Predictably, veteran big man Marcin Gortat had a big night on the glass with 15 boards in 35 minutes, three more then Henson and Maker’s combined 12 in 46 minutes. Maker finished with double digit points for the third straight game and reeled in 8 boards of his own last night. However both Maker and Henson will need to bring vastly improved physicality if they expect to have a positive influence tonight.
Winners in 8 of their last 9 games at home, Washington will provide Milwaukee with another tough challenge in what is a difficult stretch in the schedule. After last nights second half you would expect the Bucks to come out breathing fire in an attempt to regain form and keep in touch with the East’s elite.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Tee Up Tony: Tony Snell was a virtual ghost out on the floor last night, missing all four of his attempts from the field and only one of those was a triple. Nights like this tend to occur too often for Snell and the Bucks need to get him more involved. Since the turn of the new year, Snell has only attempted five triples in three games. For a guy shooting 40 percent from deep on the year, that’s not acceptable. Interestingly enough, Tony has performed best this season on the second game of a back to back. In five such instances this season, Snell is averaging 12 points per game on 52 percent shooting from deep, up from 8 and 40 on the season. The Bucks will be hoping for more of the same tonight.
- Get Physical: After an embarrassing effort last night defensively it’s time for the Bucks to show some grit. What better time to respond then bouncing back against a team that bullied you last time you met. As mentioned earlier, Gortat feasted on the glass against the Bucks but overall the Wizards out rebounded Milwaukee 53-36. Adding to Gortat’s 15, Otto Porter Jr grabbed 11 and Morris 7 for the Wiz as they were first to every lose ball in a lacklustre night for the Bucks. If things get chippy, so be it, but it’s about time some desperation and willingness is shown in this area of the game.
- Bounce Back Bled: Eric Bledsoe had decent box score numbers last night but it was a forgettable night for the point guard as he appeared out of sorts from the get go. A matchup against former Kentucky teammate John Wall would on paper be a perfect opportunity for a bounce back performance. Averaging 3 turnovers per game, Bledsoe can at times become a little sloppy with the ball. A trademark aggressive, controlled performance would go a long way to leading Milwaukee to a victory. Only playing 28 minutes last night, look for a sharper, more damaging version of Bledsoe tonight.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus